People with chronic heart failure (CHF) often experience exacerbations of their symptoms that require hospitalisation. The feasibility, safety and efficacy of early post-exacerbation rehabilitation are largely unknown in this population.
This was a single-centre, feasibility trial of early rehabilitation versus usual care. Those assigned to the intervention started rehabilitation within 10 days of discharge and attended supervised sessions twice per week for eight weeks. The primary outcomes were feasibility of uptake and safety. Assessments were performed at baseline and three months: exercise tolerance (shuttle walking tests) and health status (questionnaire).
There were 1,298 patients screened, 16 patients recruited (<1% of those screened) and 11 randomised (five rehabilitation, six control). The primary reasons for exclusion were contraindication to exercise and normal ejection fraction. There were improvements in exercise tolerance and health status in both groups at three months; however, the study was not powered to report any within- or between-group significance. The early rehabilitation intervention was safe with no adverse events reported.
In conclusion, early rehabilitation, for patients with CHF, was unfeasible. The 10-day recruitment target was too restrictive in this population. This is important because there has been a drive towards early rehabilitation in CHF guidelines.